Is all literature political? Is this political? Are you political?
On the London Review of Books blog, Kaya Genç makes the case that the similarities between the successful Turkish author Elif Şafak’s work and Zadie Smith’s books is a fact of Turkey’s shifting cultural values rather than plagiarism: “Istanbul, the city Shafak returned to after writing her book in London and the setting for many of her earlier novels, resembles London more and more.” For a bit of context, here’s Lydia Kiesling’s rundown of the initial scandal.
Recommended Reading: For the writers who make coffee for their day jobs, Lucy Schiller discusses the burden of being happy all the time as a San Francisco barista in “Service with a Smile.” The essay is the first in a weekly series by The Riveter, a magazine spotlighting original longform journalism by women. Pair with Jason Diamond’s essay on being mistaken for a professional barista.
Year in Reading alumnus Alexander Chee writes about the impulse to write fiction, his first novel, and unpublished manuscripts in an essay for the Center For Fiction’s Why Fiction Matters series. “The first story I ever invented for public consumption was in a book report back in grade school. I had made a vow to read every book in my grade school library, and at some point, as I made my way through them, I remember very clearly understanding that there was simply no way my teacher would know about every book ever published—this was before the Internet—and so I decided I would make one up and see if she noticed.” Pair with this Millions piece, featuring six writers looking back on their first novels.
Emily Smith discusses the place of zines in contemporary American politics, over at Ploughshares. As she puts it, “Zines, like street art, are allowed critical power through anonymity—a function newsstand periodicals simply can’t perform for the sake of reputation or the sacrifice of advertisers. In this way, zines are small-scale democracies.”
The t-shirt team at kafkacotton has generously offered to extend a special deal to readers of The Millions (knowing, I assume, that you bookish folks will dig t-shirts that cleverly proclaim their love for classic books). Use the discount code “THEMILLIONS” to get 10% off. Remember to put the discount code in the “Message to Seller” box. Then, I’m told, you can either immediately pay the full price and they’ll issue you a refund for the discount amount or you can wait for kafkacotton to send you a revised, discounted invoice. Thanks for setting up this deal kafkacotton!
In The Morning News, Jessica Francis Kane asks where is the line drawn between literary fiction and historical fiction; why is historical fiction maligned; and what happens when you write a novel and one of the characters attends your reading?